What WHAP Will Watch

February 28, 2008

Over at In Contention, a blog all movie buffs should read, Variety’s Kris Tapley spent the day after the Oscars posting one helluva fun column: he’s gone ahead and predicted the awards for next year. Last year, the same experiment only yielded Michael Clayton as an Oscar contender, as he missed the Coen Brothers, P.T. Anderson, and even Atonement as potential Best Picture nominees. It seems like Kris is shooting for a better performance this year, as you can tell he has researched the hell out of this column.

After reading this column, searching far too long on IMDB, and attempting a bit of research on my own, here are the 5 movies I’m most excited to see:

*** Frost/Nixon: I read the play by Peter Morgan — the screenwriter of “The Queen” — a year ago, and fell in love with the story. Somewhere immersed in the Watergate scandal was this struggle, which perfectly displays the quest for journalistic integrity and the political machine that looks to manipulate it. When the theatre version opened to rave reviews for both Frank Langella (Richard Nixon) and Michael Sheen (David Frost), a movie soon followed with the same lead characters.

Now I’m not ready to say this is a true Best Picture contender, but I’ll tell you what: if Sheen is being cast as the “Supporting Actor”, he has as good of a chance as anyone to win that Oscar — Frost is a meaty part.

*** Hamlet 2: As a huge fan of Juno in 2007 and Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, apparently feel-good indie comedies are a hit for me. If anything, it looks like this year’s big Sundance winner is “Hamlet 2”, which Focus Features paid $10 million for. It’s a no-name tale featuring Steve Coogan in the lead role, and the only appearances by actors you’ll know are Elisabeth Shue (playing Elisabeth Shue) and David Arquette. Both are in small roles, according to a less than stellar Variety review.

But it looks like Coogan acted the hell out of an interesting role — a failed actor looks to shake up a high school theatre class by staging a sequel to Hamlet. A self-realized indie comedy tailored for Shakespeare fans? Yeah, this is for me.

*** Milk: I am a fan of Gus Van Sant more than most, as both Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester were movies that resonated with me. But, c’mon, we’re 11 and 8 years, respectively, from those movies. Gus, it’s time to go. It seems like he has all his chips in the “Milk” basket, a story based on truth about California’s first openly gay elected official. Sean Penn is in the lead, the red-hot Josh Brolin signed on to play his main supporting role, and we’ll see appearances from Emile Hirsch and James Franco.

Plus, the screenplay was written by one of the writers from the HBO hit — and Bryan fave — “Big Love”. I think we can so obviously predict Penn gets nominated for the movie, but I’m hoping for more. I’m hoping this is a true Best Picture contender.

*** The Soloist: Another movie seemingly tailor-made for me. Directed by Joe Wright, who’s coming off the direction of his life, and written by Erin Brokovich writer Susannah Grant, “The Soloist” looks to be the music movie of the year. Tapley reports in his blog that Jamie Foxx has lost a ton of weight to play the “schizophrenic, homeless musician from Skid Row” who has big musical aspirations. Foxx has chosen some bad movies since his dominance in 2004, but still, add “Ray” and “Collateral” and “Dreamgirls” together, and we know this man can act.

And guess what? So can the supporting actors. While I hated Zodiac, I was the first to admit Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic. I also was Catherine Keener’s biggest advocate to win Oscar gold for her performance in Into the Wild. So two supporting acting favorites of mine, snubbed by the Academy, turn to Wright and Foxx who seem to be near peak form. This could be a big one.

*** The Dark Knight: Yeah, what, you didn’t think I was going to put it in? If I am looking forward to a single movie this year, it is the Christopher Nolan sequel and newest addition to the Batman franchise. Nolan has turned out to be the perfect director for Batman, he views the character how he should be: dark. While movies like “Superman” and “Spiderman” are fantastical, there is some truth and some realism to Nolan’s Batman that draws me in.

And, of course, Tapley writes that we have to take Heath Ledger as a serious posthumous contender for a Best Supporting Oscar. All early reports are that Ledger is fantastic as the Joker, a part that he admittedly fell too deep into.

* * * * * * *

Of course, there are many other movies that I’m looking forward to next year. “Doubt”, with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, sounds like a dandy. Brad Pitt aging backwards in David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — an adaptation from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story — has me ready to give Fincher another chance. As a fan of Leo, the prospects of his teaming back up with Kate Winslet — directed by her husband Sam Mendes — in “Revolutionary Road” really excites me. Also, I think Benicio Del Toro is going to have a monster year as Steven Soderbergh attempts Clint Eastwood’s dream of two movies — one foreign and one domestic — about the same thing: Che Guevara. Eastwood himself will be making an appearance with Angelina Jolie in “The Changeling”. Finally, I have good feelings about another Sundance comedy, “Birds of America”, but I’m keeping that under wraps.

Really, I’m just hoping the Coens’ “Burn After Reading” — starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt — sucks. I’m officially sick of Joel and Ethan Coen. But you knew that.


Wednesday’s Top Ten

February 27, 2008

—Happy birthday to Chelsea Clinton, who turns 28 today. That’s just old enough to be manipulated for political purposes!

Mischa Barton now faces four misdemeanors for drunk driving and weed possession. She shoulda never gotten involved with that Volchock.

—In surreal estate news, Michael Jackson will lose the Neverland Ranch if he doesn’t cough up $25 mill in a few days — in which case the property will go to the highest bidder. No word on whether that includes the carnival rides, Bubbles the chimp, or the Silence of the Lambs-style kiddie pit.

—Speaking of boys, the Top Ten guys on American Idol hit the stage last night for a night of ’70s hits. The standout was David Archuleta, who sang a sugary version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Randy called it perhaps the show’s greatest performance ever (because hyperbole equals ratings). Tonight the chicks sing the ’70s.

Maxim magazine has started giving albums reviews without actually listening to the CD. Both the Black Crowes and Nas have received 2.5 star reviews, based entirely on “educated guesses.” We think it’s more than a stretch to assume Maxim editors are “educated.”

—Warner Bros. might be giving Perez Hilton a record label because of his pop culture influence. I think it’ll tank within a year, but that’s just an educated guess.

Madonna‘s new CD, set for release on April 28th, will be called Hard Candy. It’s first single is “Four Minutes,” co-written by Justin Timberlake. Just for the record, that album title has already been used by the Counting Crows.

—In other diva news, Mariah Carey has a brand new video for the single “Touch My Body.” We mentioned the song last week, but the vid’s better: it stars 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer as Mariah’s less-than-ideal love interest.

—On this week’s Flavor of Love 3, Flav has his top twelve girls create a restaurant in his name. He gets mad at one of the teams for mispelling his name, using “Flava” instead of “Flavor.” I guess the show’s contestants — especially Myammee and Grayvee — should have known that proper spelling is extremely important to him.

—And we gave face time to Sarah Silverman, so why not Kimmel?


What WHAP’s Listening To

February 26, 2008

Song: “Time to Pretend”
Artist: MGMT
Album: Oracular Spectacular

MGMT (not pronounced “management”) has been on the cusp of popularity for a few years now — this track, in fact, has been floating around the web since 2005. The group is composed of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden, who signed a major label deal with Columbia straight out of college and have already toured with Of Montreal and even played their first Letterman gig. “Time to Pretend” is the song that got them noticed, and rightly so: it’s four and a half minutes of catchy electro pop and insidious lyrics about the intricacies of fame. (That’s not the song’s video above, by the way; it’s just another piece of evidence for BBC’s ongoing hypothesis that any song gets ten times better when you back it with blossoming plants.) For the real vid, full of dolphins and zebras and kaleidoscope colors, head here.


Tuesday’s Top Ten

February 26, 2008

—Happy birthday to Erykah Badu, who turns 37 today. To celebrate this year, the Grammy-winning soul singer is releasing her fourth album — New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War) — today.

Usher has a new single, and it’s gonna be a huge hit. It’s called “Love in the Club” (listen here), and its about, well, making love in the club — which violates so many health codes that even Lil’ Jon is concerned. (BTW, if you recognize the song’s chord progression, that’s because it’s matches the pattern from Alicia Key’s “No One” to a tee.)

—In May of next year, Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins will open with a brand-new star: Christian Bale. Is it just me, or is Chris taking more and more roles where he has to speak less and less?

—In other sure-to-be-huge movie news, Matt Damon has signed on for a fourth Bourne film in light of the third’s success at Sunday’s Academy Awards. Paul Greengrass is set to direct again as well.

Quarterlife, the new NBC drama about twentysomethings, premiers tonight at 10 and also at 4:30 on MTV. It’s about seven strangers…picked to live in a house…who have their lives taped…to find out what happens when people stop being polite…and start getting real. (I think.)

—Speaking of The Real World, the 21st season might be coming to Washington, D.C. That will make the seven cast members the city’s wildest, most sex-crazed individuals besides anyone working in politics.

—So Diablo Cody didn’t wear those $1.1 million shoes at the Oscars because she realized she was being used for “free publicity.” (Evidently, she’ll only degrade herself by taking shiny things off her body, not putting them on.) She was quoted as saying this on the subject:

“I’m sorry if I sound like a party-pooper, but Jeebus.”

When did Juno start writing Diablo Cody’s lines?

—Yesterday, tonight and Thursday are Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood‘s three charity concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York. I caught the first one last night (review to come), and the two rock all-stars — who haven’t played a full set together in almost four decades — took to each other’s stylings like second nature.

—On yesterday’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg got sad and almost cried because she wasn’t included in Sunday night’s Oscar montage of past hosts. Barbara Walters, in turn, became sad that she wasn’t included in the Oscar montage of dinosaurs.

—And in uterus news, Angelina Jolie is indeed pregnant. This will be her 89th child and will be used purely as live fodder to keep the other ones alive.


The WHAP Wrap: Oscar Edition

February 25, 2008

Yesterday was the 80th Annual Academy Awards, and the first one covered by us here at WHAP. So we liveblogged it. Then we summarized it. Now we give cheers and jeers to some of its most visible moments and speeches in this week’s Oscar Edition of The WHAP Wrap.

THE WINNERS

3. Anyone who’s ever won an Oscar. I mentioned yesterday that Jon Stewart promised some surprises in the writing of this year’s show, by which he apparently meant constant flashback tapes to past Oscar victors. In order to stretch the telecast beyond the length of any of the nominated films (and that’s including The Assassination of Jesse James, mind you), writers injected “previous winner” montages into countless awards, so we got to see clips from great speeches of yesteryear like Cuba Gooding for Jerry MacGuire and Halle Berry for black people everywhere Monster’s Ball.

2. Foreigners. After Tilda Swinton won last night, Bryan remarked to me that none of this year’s acting winners were going to be American. (If Julian Schabnel took Best Director, we would have had a complete foreigner sweep in the five individual categories). So here’s the list of Best Actors and their respective home countries: Daniel Day Lewis (England); Marion Cotillard (France); Javier Bardem (Spain); and Tilda Swinton (England).

1. No Country for Old Men. No Country took home four Oscars out of eight nominations — a 50% success rate, which roughly matches the percentage of people who liked the movie’s ending. Those four awards include Best Picture and Best Director(s) to the Coen brothers, who prove once again that no awards show is big enough for them to get a damn haircut. But if you should walk away with one overarching message from this year’s Oscars, it’s this: 16 different films were awarded in some way last night, including all five Best Picture nominees. So while No Country may have been a rewarding film in and of itself, the real treasure from 2007 was its filmic diversity. It’s a year in which you can truly walk away and say that everyone came out a winner.

THE LOSERS

3. Steven Spielberg. No one else seems to be mentioning this, so maybe I’m just hung up. But in the Best Director flashback montage, Steven Spielberg compared winning the Oscar for Schindler’s List to “male menopause.” Personally, I can’t think of two worse words to commemorate his win for the greatest Holocaust film of all-time — and my choice for greatest film ever at that. Maybe he could have called it “an experience unlike anything else.” Or “a once-in-a-lifetime moment.” Instead he makes an analogy to the inevitable ceasing of reproduction functions in women, often associated with mood swings, anxiety and hot flashes.

2. Every supporting actress except Tilda Swinton. Look, I’m not saying that Tilda (short for Matilda?) didn’t deserve her win, but she was so surprised to hear her name called in this category that her hair stood straight up. Every other nominee for supporting actress seemed more than prepared to accept the award: Cate Blanchett probably thought that the Academy asking her to present was a subtle hint that she’d win; Amy Ryan looked rather stunning, despite being the least-hyped performer of any category last night; even Ruby Dee put off dying for another week ’cause she thought this award would go her way. But alas, no luck for any of them. The award went Tilda’s way, and with drapes that orange we’re left wondering whether she has a red carpet of her own.

1. Transformers. Like I said above, it was hard to pick a huge loser from last night. But if there is one, then Transformers is it. The big budget, massively-successful summer blockbuster was completely shut out last night, including in the coveted Best Visual Effects (read: the Oscar for nerds) category that everyone thought it had locked up. In choice words, Steven Spielberg — who executive produced the film — compared the bad night to “male menopause.”


The Post-Show: After Thoughts on the Oscars

February 25, 2008

It was a very good year for movies and it was a very good year for the Oscars.  No Country for Old Men dominated as everyone thought it would, but still, there were some upsets.  And yet, for some reason, I feel as I did after my high school prom–empty and aching.  Maybe it’s because I felt Heath Ledger deserved more of a tribute, or maybe it’s because I didn’t get a Cuba Gooding Jr. moment, or maybe it’s just because I realized I’m never going to be the first man to inpregnate Jessica Alba.  Nevertheless, below is what I’ve taken away from the 80th Academy Awards and the movies of 2007. 

 

The Host: Jon Stewart was not only funny, he was classy.  It was touching to see him call Marketa Irglova back onstage after her mic had been cut during the “Falling Slowly” acceptance speech.  I didn’t expect much from Stewart after his last hosting job at the Oscars, but I was impressed with him tonight. 

The Best Presenters:  Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill were hilarious.  We’ve bashed Rogan plenty of times on this site, but I’m starting to come around on the guy.  I vote he and Hill host the Oscars next year and bicker the entire time.

Biggest Upset:  Tilda Swinton.  WTF!?!?!  Best Actress in a Supporting Role was a category full of outstanding performances this year and they give it to a woman who wore half of a cat for a dress.  

*On a side note: I believe I am the only WHAP writer to see La Vie en Rose, and Marion Cotillard was fabulous.  Part of me was rooting for Julie Christie, another part for Ellen Page, and part of me for Marion Cotillard.  I’m happy she won.

Most Touching Moment:  This is a tie for me between Diablo Cody’s win and the win for “Falling Slowly.”  Diablo Cody’s walk up to the stage was wonderful, it was evident how much she means to everyone in that film.  Both Ellen Page and Jennifer Gardner (who looked stunning) were overjoyed.  Cody’s emotional speech was elegant, she thanked her family for “always supporting who she was.”

As for “Falling Slowly,” what a great win for a beautiful song.  The duet from Once acted as if they had just won the lottery when their names were announced and they gave speeches that summed up how magical the Oscars can be.  Their performance was just as beautiful, the blue light on stage reminding me of the chills I got when Tom Petty performed “Free Falling” at the Super Bowl. 

In Summary:  It was a nostalgic year for the Oscars, as replays of past winners and old acceptance speeches dominated the show.  Jon Stewart brought his smirk and his witt, his best joke being his comment, “That guy is so arrogant,” in regards to Glen Hansard after he gave a very humbling speech in regards to “Falling Slowly.”  The Coen brothers proved to be just as “creepy” and “little” as Josh Brolin has described them at the SAGs.  And in a year of great films, No Country for Old Men proved to be the greatest film of 2007.  We have not seen a year like this for movies since 1999, a year that gave us Run, Lola Run, Eyes Wide Shut, The Sixth Sense, American Beauty, Boys Don’t Cry, Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, The Green Mile, The Cider House Rules, Magnolia, and The Hurricane.  2007, you will be remembered as the year we almost didn’t have the Oscars, the year other years will be compared to in terms of quantity of quality of films, and the year No Country for Old Men reigned supreme.    

For more Oscar thoughts, click here to access Bryan and Jon’s liveblogging.


The 80th Annual Academy Awards: Liveblog (!)

February 24, 2008

So the Oscars are less than an hour away, and here at WHAP we’re putting on our best dresses and getting ready to party. This year’s show, for better or for worse, has become one of the most hyped in recent memory: first we thought it wasn’t going to happen; then we really thought it wasn’t going to happen; but now it’s back on and we’ve made our predictions (here and here). Stay with us for the next three hours for extensive Oscar coverage, including Bryan and Jon’s liveblog of the telecast, Brett’s post-show reaction and even an all-Oscar edition of The WHAP Wrap. To start things off, click below the pic for our 80th annual Academy Awards liveblog.

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